The Mallens The series follows a ruthless 19th century Northumberland Squire, Thomas Mallen, and the tumultuous lives of his multiple illegitimate children distinguishable by a white streak in their hair. This is a 4 disc box set on DVD as four separate instalments – The Mallen Streak, The Mallen Girls; The Mallen Secret, The Mallen Curse.
engrossing melodrama from the Cookson library
‘The Mallens was originally transmitted as two films and has since been reissued on DVD as four separate instalments – The Mallen Streak, The Mallen Girls; The Mallen Secret, The Mallen Curse. Based on Catherine Cookson’s trilogy of novels, it was not liked by its author and prevented other adaptations being made of her work for many years.
But is it any good? The first part of the story is dominated, as it should be, by Squire Thomas, a man who a woman never said no to, rich, powerful, and morally corrupt. Played by John Hallam (who was surprisingly under 40 at the time, but has the acting authority to appear older), a complex character emerges who engages both the audience’s revulsion and sympathy. His actions cause the rest of the saga to unfold, first affecting his nieces Barbara and Constance, and then the next generation of children.
Many emotionally charged scenes could prove laughable if not skilfully handled. I think the acting was overwrought in places (David Rintoul in the early scenes strutted a bit too much as the arrogant country gentleman), but with Caroline Blakiston, Anne Reid, June Ritchie, Juliet Stevenson, and others on the screen you can’t go wrong. The second part centres on the second generation (Juliet Stevenson and Gerry Sundquist), a bit like a pseudo Wuthering Heights – it’s weaker, but by this time you care enough to see the saga through to the end.
A difficult adaptation of a difficult potboiler saga. Catherine Cookson should have been proud. It may not appeal to everyone, but there’s no denying its power.